A318 Starts Taking Shape in Hamburg

 - May 9, 2008, 5:14 AM

Airbus Industrie began final assembly of the first Airbus A318 at its plant in Hamburg, Germany, when on August 9 it joined the 107-seat jet’s forward and aft fuselage sections. The A318, smallest member of the A320 family, will become the third Airbus type assembled outside the company’s primary plant in Toulouse, France. Airbus also builds the A319 and A321 in Germany. A shrunken variant of the A319, itself a smaller version of the A320, the A318 features a taller vertical stabilizer for better lateral stability. Instead of using rivets, Airbus for the first time welded the stabilizing stringers to the fuselage shells with a laser beam, a process meant to speed manufacturing, reduce weight and control corrosion. Airbus claims to have taken firm orders for 136 copies of its newest jet. First flight of the A318 is scheduled for January. The company expects to deliver the first customer model by the end of next year.